Thursday, May 26, 2011
I could not even recognize Nix Road. All the landmarks were gone.
My mother, who had already been to Hackleburg, Ala., since the tornado destroyed the small town, helped me find my way to where my Uncle Mack and Aunt Kay once lived.
I was lost in a town that has always been an important part of my life.
It was the same home place where we used to play in the yard of Mawmaw and Pawpaw. But there was nothing there – except a pile of rubble that clean-up crews had bulldozed to the side of the street.
I’d heard about the destruction. But Saturday, I got to see it for myself – almost a month after the tornado, with winds of about 250 miles per hour.
I took lots of photos (see some on the opposite page).
Trucks were tossed up against the leveled Wrangler plant.
The school was crumbled.
The Church of God of Prophesy building was demolished – steel beams twisted like pretzels.
Large trees were either snapped or uprooted like toothpicks.
Best of all Saturday, I got to hug Uncle Mack and Aunt Kay. They’re doing fine – settled in a nice mobile home on the outskirts of town.
As they’ve shared with many others, they told me their story from the frightening afternoon of Wednesday, April 27, 2011.
They heard the tornado coming and rushed to a small room where they huddled with their three small dogs.
“It sounded like a train,” Aunt Kay said.
They had made it to their “cover” only about two minutes before the tornado hit.
Aunt Kay wanted to rush back out to grab a flashlight but Uncle Mack said “no.”
“If she had, she would have been gone,” he said.
It happened quickly. Then they managed to climb out of the rubble – amazingly uninjured.
“The only rafters left were the ones over that room,” Uncle Mack said. “God had his hand on us.”
He called it “an awakening” to realize they had survived and all they had left was each other and their beloved pets.
“Really, that’s all that mattered,” he said. “All else can be replaced.”
They heard sirens, shouts and screams as they walked in the pouring rain to the nearby downtown area and ended up in shelter at town hall.
That’s where Kay’s brother, Rocky, was able to find them about six hours after the tornado.
“We were soaking wet, but we found a couple of T-shirts (at town hall) to put on,” Kay said. “It was sure good to see Rocky.”
In their temporary home, they sat in a couple of chairs they were able to save from the devastation. And amazingly, their flat screen TV survived. Mack pointed to a few small “pecks” where flying debris had hit the screen. But it’s still working.
Later, Mack walked to the back of the mobile home and brought back a scrapbook he and Kaye had found in the rubble just a day earlier. It included sports articles from football games, which recorded the accomplishments of their son and my first cousin Brent, who was a football star for the Hackleburg Panthers. He died in September 2004.
It was an emotional trip to Hackleburg Saturday. Please, keep praying for the tornado victims.
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